It’s often said that the journey is just as important as the destination - this statement certainly holds true when travelling to Everest. The journey from Lhasa (the main port entry for tourists visiting the Everest Base Camp from Tibet) to Everest Base Camp is filled with spectacular views and historical monuments dating back thousands of years.
Visitors heading from Lhasa to Everest Base Camp will likely travel via the old Friendship Highway, which is around 800 kilometers long and takes roughly two and a half days to drive. It can be done faster if you take the new highway to Shigatse, but the views the old highway have to offer more than make up for the extra 4-5 hours of driving. You will also want to consider travelling with the company of a local Tibetan guide who can highlight everything that these locations have to offer.
Here are a few of our favorite sights to see along the Old Friendship Highway:
Lhasa itself is home to three UNESCO world heritage sites–the Potala Palace, Norbulingka, and Jokhang Temple. The Potala Palace served as the winter residence for the Dalai Lamas, and is famous for its magnificent architecture and stunning palace grounds. Just a kilometer away lies Norbulingka Palace, the former summer palace for the Dalai Lamas that is famous for its beautiful and well-preserved flower gardens.
Also within walking distance to Potala is the Jokhang Temple, which is easily distinguished by its iconic golden roof. It is a massive monastery that spreads over an area of about 25,000 square meters and is widely considered to be the most sacred temple in Tibet.
Surrounding Jokhang Temple is the Barkor Bazaar. Walk down the cobblestone road and observe Tibetans making their crafts using traditional methods. Barkor Bazaar is a great place pick up souvenirs and goods (like yak butter) that you won’t find anywhere else! While you’re there, be sure to stop by Metok Karpo for a taste of authentic Tibetan foods and flavors.
The Kamba-la Pass is a popular viewpoint for those travelling along the Friendship Highway. It overlooks the majestic turquoise gem of Yamdrok Lake and offers spectacular panoramic views of the pristine lake. Numerous streams from nearby mountains feed into the lake, giving it it’s unique shape and earning it the alternate name of Coral Lake by locals. On the other side of Yamdrok Lake is the Karo-la Pass which, at the summit, offers views of the immense Karo-la Glacier.
The journey along the Friendship Highway will lead to Shigatse, the second largest city in Central Tibet, with a population of over 700,000. It is most famously known for Tashilhunpo Monastery, one of the four great monasteries of Central Tibet. Inside the highest temple, a huge statue of the Maitreya, the Future Buddha, can be found. It is the largest bronze Maitreya in the world and is a sight to behold. A tour of the monastery grounds also leads to the Shigatze Dzong, a fortress that overlooks the town.
The view from Gawu-la Pass is incredible. At 5,198 meters above sea level, the Gawu-la Pass viewing platform provides the first panoramic views of Mount Everest and the Himalayan giants. Colorful Tibetan flags decorate the area, framing the sweeping mountain ranges beautifully. This makes for a great photo op!
Robngbuk Monastery lies just 8 kilometers from Everest Base Camp and is the highest monastery in the world. Inside, the walls are adorned with beautifully painted murals, while the observation deck provides dramatic and unobstructed views of Everest.
Ready to embark on the trip of a lifetime? Let us help you plan your trip to this majestic wonder of the world. We have 8 trips travelling along this route and are happy to customize tours to best suit your needs!
While Tibet is known for its sweeping landscapes and awe-inspiring scenery, did you know that it also offers one of the most distinct and delicious cuisines? We’ve narrowed down a list of our top 5 Tibetan foods below that you’ve got to try!
The list of incredible sights and experiences found in Tibet goes on and on. Here are some sample itineraries we’ve created to help you make the most out of your trip to Central Tibet, depending on how much time you have.